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Hear the One About the Mossad Agent in Al Gore’s Crapper?

israeli spies in ventilation ducts

Israeli spies in the air ducts

We’re gonna have some fun with this one tonight!  Jeff Stein, Newsweek’s intelligence reporter has filed two great stories using inside U.S. intelligence, Homeland Security and Congressional aide sources to portray the massive Israeli spy presence in the U.S.  The second report was published yesterday and it was a real eye-opener.  Perhaps the most jaw-dropping revelation was that during a visit to Israel, then-VP Al Gore was ‘bunking’ at the King David Hotel.

The Secret Service did their usual security sweep of the room and were satisfied all was in order.  Everyone left except one agent who had to relieve himself.  He entered the bathroom and settled in.  The room became quite quiet.  All of a sudden the agent heard scrapping inside the ventilation duct.  A few minutes later he saw the cover of the duct being moved and a person begin to emerge.  Doing some quick thinking and realizing he was in a vulnerable position so to speak, the agent thought better of hollering or summoning his colleagues.  Instead, he cleared his throat and the man quickly retreated.

Though this is the most astonishing of the stories told in the report, the rest of the information is equally disturbing and should be read.  Here is a comment from a former U.S. intelligence official about lectures he used to give Israeli personnel in Washington about spying on our soil:

“You can’t embarrass an Israeli,” he said. “It’s just impossible to embarrass them. You catch them red-handed, and they shrug and say, ‘Okay now, anything else?’” Always lurking, former intelligence officials say, was the powerful “Israeli lobby,” the network of Israel’s friends in Congress, industry and successive administrations, Republican and Democratic, ready to protest any perceived slight on the part of U.S. security officials.

The official went on to say that when he gave security briefings to U.S. officials and business leaders headed to Israel and warned them of the serious security threats they might face, he was hauled on the carpet:

“We had to be very careful how we warned American officials,” he said. “We regularly got calls from members of Congress outraged by security warnings about going to Israel. And they had our budget. When … the director of the CIA gets a call from an outraged congressman–’What are these security briefings you’re giving? What are these high-level threat warnings about travel to Tel Aviv you’re giving? This is outrageous’ – he has to pay close attention.

In other words, the Lobby and the Israeli government were angry that U.S. intelligence officials were alerting Americans about the vulnerabilities they should be aware of in their interactions with Israelis.  If no one is warned of such threats then these American visitors would, of course, be more likely to be compromised.  Among those who were targeted:

Israeli agents “go after senior U.S. Navy officers on shore leave in Haifa, after space industry officials, or scientists with intellectual property, anywhere. This has always been a huge concern for the community.”

Here are some of the techniques they allegedly used:

“Their goal,” he continued, “is to get contacts to come out of the U.S. and over there and then wine them, dine them, assess them, see what their weaknesses are. I mean, we had government officials going over there who were offered drugs, like, ‘Hey, do you want to go get some pot?’ What? These are U.S. government officials. The drugs, women coming to your hotel room – they throw everything at you. No matter how high the official.”

Official Israeli reaction to Stein’s first report was swift and furious.  An unnamed foreign ministry source accused Stein of “anti-Semitism” because he had the temerity to say (which he didn’t) that Israel is an enemy of the U.S.  The response to the latest report has been even more vociferous.  This time, Israel did something relatively unheard of: it allowed a former top IDF spook, Amos Yadlin, to be interviewed on air saying Stein was “delusional:”

Former Israeli Military Intelligence head, Major General (ret.) Amos Yadlin, said Saturday evening that the allegation is “delusional.”

“Newsweek is relying on anonymous testimony with historic stories from the War of Independence,” he told Channel 2. The story about an agent hiding in an air duct sounds like it was taken from “50 years ago,” he said. “Anyone familiar with today’s intelligence aganecies knows that they do not work like that.”

Yadlin stated categorically that Israel has not been spying on the United States since the Pollard affair and he added that he spoke with former Mossad chief Meir Dagan before the interview, and that Dagan corroborated this.

He added that he has friends who are senior officials in the US intelligence establishment and that he expects them to either come out publicly and deny the allegations, or alternatively, prove that they are true.

It’s laughable to claim that Israel wouldn’t have tried to plant a bug in Al Gore’s hotel room over a decade ago during the Clinton administration.  Of course there is other technology available that is more sophisticated, but not that can be used on a moment’s notice with little prep time (you don’t find out which hotel room a vice president is staying in with a whole lot of lead time).

Further, having two of Israel’s top spooks swear on a stack of Bibles that these things never happened is not exactly convincing.  As for those “friends” who Yadlin is calling on to speak up in Israel’s defense, we’ll probably see the usual suspects line up with full-throated support of the Blue and White.  But the real intelligence officials most affected by Israeli espionage in this country won’t be among them.

Another breed of Israeli denial comes in the form of an article (Hebrew) by Yediot’s security reporter, Ron Ben Yishai.  His report too makes for fun reading.  The most bizarre claim in his report is that the man coming out of the ventilation duct was none other than a King David Hotel air conditioning tech who was making sure the room was suitably comfortable for such an august guest!

Ben Yishai calls Stein’s reporting “somewhere between laughable and embarrassing” when it’s the Israeli reporters work that fits that description–in spades.  Further, the Israeli says that this series of articles doesn’t prove anything about Israeli intelligence efforts, but rather points to the weaknesses and failures of U.S. intelligence (presumably in not doing a better job of preventing John McClane from getting into Gore’s room)!

One of the stranger claims in Ben Yishai’s account is this:

The second report in the series embarrasses the author and his sources even more than the first…It proves a fact known to anyone who ever worked in Washington and was in contact with the administration–American reporting on facts and events that relate to foreigners are often distorted or erroneous.

Really!?  Who’d a thunk it?  Stein goes on to give several reasons why U.S. intelligence might “have it in” for Israel.  One of them is a real peach straight from the hasbara farm:

The judgement of U.S. intelligence in 2005 was that Iran had suspended its race for a [nuclear] bomb.  Israeli intelligence claimed that this was a serious error which drew howls of outrage.  Only years later those who wrote the [U.S.] reports were forced to acknowledge they had erred.

This is ‘journalism’ Israel-style.  Take one fact, mix it with hasbara, and stir.  Et voila, you have a new claim that bears no relation to truth or reality.  It is true Israel’s assessment differed from the U.S.  But Israel’s judgment has been proven wrong, or at least totally unproven.  While the U.S. assessment has never been disproven or renounced.  Where does the claim that the U.S. has deferred to Israel’s views on this come from?  Totally fabricated either by Ben Yishai or whoever his source was.

He makes another similarly egregious claim that a senior IDF Aman officer told the Americans that Assad used chemical weapons and that the U.S. disbelieved him and was proven wrong.  In fact, Seymour Hersh showed that the U.S. believed that Assad used the weapons, and that we were likely wrong.  Again, journalism made up out of whole cloth.

{ 24 comments… add one }
  • Oui May 11, 2014, 3:35 AM

    Thanks for the fun article, lasting joy. With your writing about the US-Israel visa waiver deception, it’s clear the two friends don’t see eye-to-eye anymore, and tougher times are on the horizen. Will the State Department make the step from standard reply on increased settlement building as “not helpful” to a tougher line? Seeing is believing. Monitoring press statements from AIPAC and alliances to see how the Israeli community in the US will react.

  • Deïr Yassin May 11, 2014, 3:52 AM

    “You can’t embarrass an Israeli,” he said. “It’s just impossible to embarrass them. You catch them red-handed, and they shrug and say, ‘Okay now, anything else?’”

    This might be a overgeneralization but it certainly desribes many on this blog too.

    • Elisabeth May 11, 2014, 11:43 AM

      You are right. :-) or rather :-( ?

    • Richard Silverstein May 11, 2014, 2:23 PM

      @ Deir Yassin Chuckle…

  • Renfro May 11, 2014, 7:41 AM

    Have any of our Israeli congressperps or senators held a press conference yet to denounce Newsweek and the US Intel agenices as anti semitic and spreading vicious lies our loyal ally?
    NewsWeeks next Israel expose should concentrate on the Israel spies in the US congress.

  • Jackdaw May 11, 2014, 10:45 AM

    The good news is that NSA technology frees ‘frenemies’ from having to climb around ducts.

    • Richard Silverstein May 12, 2014, 1:24 AM

      @ Jackdaw: You’re saying that the NSA has shared its spy technology with Israel? Interesting.

  • Nonsense May 11, 2014, 12:37 PM

    Anyone who thinks that on Israeli soil, The Israeli intelligence agencies will try to spy on the US VP using such a a method is a fool.

    • Richard Silverstein May 11, 2014, 2:20 PM

      @Nonsense That makes the Mossadniks who devised this caper fools.

    • Why is it nonsense? May 11, 2014, 3:32 PM

      Read the article: it was only by chance that a Secret Service dude was there to prevent the room from being bugged.

      If he hadn’t then the attempt would have succeeded, as it had probably succeeded many, many times before.

      • Jackdaw May 11, 2014, 10:52 PM

        If standard operating procedure is to ‘clear a room’ and leave one agent behind to secure it, don’t you think Mossad would know that not attempt such a reckless caper?

        • Why is it nonsense? May 12, 2014, 12:52 AM

          The article makes it clear that it is NOT standard operating procedure to leave an agent behind to secure a room.
          The Secret Service sweeps a room and then…. they leave, and guard the room from the outside (which, of course, makes sense if the VP expects to have some – supposed – privacy).

          In this case the agent lingered for an entirely different reason i.e. not because it was Secret Service protocol, but because he had to use the bathroom.

          The encounter was entirely coincidental, not the result of any flaw in “the method” used to gain entry to the room after it had been secured (and, normally, vacated).

          • Jackdaw May 12, 2014, 11:00 AM

            ‘As is protocol in such cases, and this is well known to Israel’s security and intelligence officials, one Secret Service man remains in the hotel room to make sure it remains ‘clean’ and no would be assassins attempt to enter while the room is vacant’. –Ron Ben Yishai
            link to ynetnews.com

          • Richard Silverstein May 12, 2014, 3:00 PM

            @ Jackdaw: And you presume that Ron Ben Yishai knows U.S. Secret Service protocol because…? In fact, the Newsweek article doesn’t mention this “well-known” fact apparently passed on to him by “Israeli security and intelligence officials.” In fact, Ben Yishai made it up or his sources did. My advice to you is when speaking about U.S. intelligence matters you trust a reporter like Jeff Stein who actually knows such officers and uses them as sources, and not Ron Ben Yishai, who knows gornisht fun gornisht on this subject.

          • Nonsense May 13, 2014, 7:09 AM

            @ RS
            Because VP Gore wan’t the first US high ranking official to visit the state of Israel, and in preparation for such a clumsy operation intelligence will be gathered, including the behavior and protocol of US secret service agents. Keep in mind that US secret service coordinated everything with the Israeli counterparts, protocol included.

        • Richard Silverstein May 12, 2014, 1:12 AM

          @ Jackdaw: You clearly didn’t read the Newsweek story, which makes clear that the agent remained behind to use the bathroom, not because he was assigned to guard the room.

  • Embarrassmentlessness May 11, 2014, 3:30 PM

    I would suggest that the sequence went like this:
    1) The Israelis applied to that visa-less program
    2) The State Dept (quietly) told Israel to (quietly) drop the idea
    3) Israel then decided to go public (you need only read the Israeli papers a fortnight ago)
    4) At which point the USA exasperation with Israeli led them to talk to Newsweek
    5) At which point Israel decided to escalate this AGAIN by bringing out the Big Guns like Yadlin.

    The smart move would have been to heed the US advice at (2) i.e. drop the whole idea to avoid embarrassment.

    But Israel can’t be embarrassed, and so it refused to take “No” for an answer. And this is the inevitable result of that arrogance i.e. the USA decided to stick it right up the Israelis and watch them squeal.

    The USA didn’t do so because Israel has been spying on the USA.
    No. It did so because Israel Can’t Take A Hint.

  • Jackdaw May 11, 2014, 9:06 PM

    Another respected Israeli journalist disparages the Newsweek article.

    link to ynetnews.com

    • Embarrassmentlessness May 12, 2014, 1:16 AM

      The money-shot from that article is here: “The explanation raised last week was the opposition against granting Israelis visa-free entry, but it is not at all certain that that is the real reason”

      I suggest that the visa-free brouhaha is indeed the real reason why the US is sticking it to the Israelis.

      Think about it: Israel would have approached the USA on the quiet with a request to be included in that program, and the USA would have quietly told Israel to forgetaboutit coz’ it just ain’t gonna’ happen.

      At which point a normal country (you know, a country that fears embarrassment) would have taken the hint and dropped the whole idea, and if anyone asked then officials would have muttered something about We Have More Important Things To Deal With Than Your Inability To Fill Out A Stupid Visa.

      But Israel couldn’t take “No” for an answer.

      So it had to go public about wanting to join the visa-waiver program (the Israeli press of 3 weeks ago was obsessed about it) which essentially meant that Israel was **daring** the USA to stick it to them.

      Well, sorry, the USA decided to stick it to them.

      This isn’t really about spying.
      This isn’t about Pollard at all.

      This is all about Israel’s inability to take a hint, and about a thoroughly exasperated USA trying to tell Israel to learn some humility.

      Though it appears that the Israelis *still* haven’t got the message…..

    • Richard Silverstein May 12, 2014, 1:21 AM

      @ Jackdaw: Even Ronen Bergman, whose work I often admire, is wrong sometimes and this is one of them.

      BTW, can you tell me when Amos Yadlin’s “good friends” in U.S. intelligence are going to come to the Mossad’s defense and speak up for it & against Stein’s article? I’m waiting for that and not a murmur out of anyone in DC. Strange, don’t you think? You might want to get right on that.

      • Jackdaw May 12, 2014, 4:03 AM

        Considering how much the NSA spies on America’s allies, like eavesdropping on Chancellor Merkel’s cellphone conversations, the US spy establishment should best remain quiet throughout this rather trivial affair.

        • Richard Silverstein May 12, 2014, 3:02 PM

          @ Jackdaw: Thank you for your advice about how the U.S. spy establishment should behave. I’ll pass it along. I’m sure they’ll be most interested in what you have to say and will all our readers!

          • Jackdaw May 12, 2014, 9:03 PM

            ‘BTW, can you tell me when Amos Yadlin’s “good friends” in U.S. intelligence are going to come to the Mossad’s defense and speak up for it & against Stein’s article?’

            Richard. I was only responding to your question.

      • Oui May 12, 2014, 9:37 AM

        That same Ronen Bergman, who has for years been trying to goad the Bush administration into attacking Iran. Link here [source Jeff Huber] and here.

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